The Perils of Voting While Black

-By Attorney Keisha Bell

Okay, so admittedly I was a tad heated when I posted on this topic to Facebook a few days ago. My post is reproduced below, and after reading, my hope is that you will understand why. Because the note generated such a rich and healthy dialogue, I decided to expound a bit on the incidents that triggered it.  So here goes.

I recently encountered a conversation with a white woman who expressed shock that Republican Mayoral Candidate Rick Baker received any votes from black people — especially during this Trump-era.

Instantly, I got a flashback of a conversation I had downtown with another white woman late last year. A staunch Democrat, she expressed confusion as to why Black America had not fallen in love with then-Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. It made no sense to her because, as she put it, “But President Obama endorsed her.”


There I stood, on both occasions, torn between emotions.

On one hand, I understood that neither woman had ill-intent. Really, they didn’t. Both felt comfortable enough with me to have “the conversation.” So, after assessing the situations and taking a momentary pause, inwardly I applauded them for wanting to know why…and for asking to understand.

On the other hand, however, a part of me screamed, “WHAT THE HECK?!” Am I really living in a time when people are shocked that black people think for ourselves?

YES, President Obama is a well-respected figure among many – if not most – black Americans and YES, the Democratic Party is arguably the favored party amongst many – if not most – black Americans, BUT these things do not always equate to our vote being Blue. Make no mistake, such hypothesis is faulty.

With crucial matters continuously and adversely affecting the state of Black America, the idea that a black person would investigate a candidate’s views and history on issues, programs, and policies should not be conveniently dismissed.

Furthermore, the idea that all black people share the same priority listing when it comes to the question of, “What is important to you,” is erroneous. The political diversity that resides among black voters is alive and well with or without the approval of political pundits.

As Jarrish Jones notes on my Facebook post, “African-Americans never truly had real allies in politics despite our perceived reality in the affirmative.”

There are issues of concern in both parties for Black America. Can we have THAT conversation? It can start with the assumption that black people are monolithic, and more specifically vote alike. That’s not true. President Obama may not have mentioned it.

So for those who missed it, here’s my Facebook post (the one that inspired this editorial):

PSA: At some point it just becomes insulting to be asked about black people who vote Republican. I really try to be patient with people. YES, THERE ARE BLACK REPUBLICANS. YES, BLACK PEOPLE VOTE ACROSS PARTY LINES. YES, there is a difference between your #desire for it not to be true and the #fact that it is true.

I have NEVER thought to ask a white person, “Why did white people and particularly white women vote for Trump?” BUT NOW I understand why there was a race-based assumption [that] I would vote for Obama. LISTEN, I may have voted for Powell or Rice if their platforms were ones I could have supported…and I gladly vote for white people ALL OF THE TIME! #HELLO.

I, like MANY, look at platforms and policies because there are times when the identities of political parties become ambiguous. Remember when the Republican Party took the lead on Civil Rights legislation??? What happened??? Anyway……

Imagine my heartbreak when I realized that people – within both major political parties – prioritize the socially constructed race label and/or one’s gender over all else. Now, imagine the amount of patience I MUST have to entertain discussions about why all black people don’t vote the same way. I mean really, even on plantations you had slaves who preferred to stay and others who would risk their lives for “freedom”.

PEOPLE —ALL PEOPLE [because #newsflash blacks are people]— have the RIGHT to think independently. IF those who think alike find each other, then that must be a wonderful feeling to have support and encouragement in thought.

Black people are no different than other racially labeled demographics, so until all of those others demonstrate this “we all vote alike” ballot drop, then PLEASE DON’T add the extra burden of doing so on me…because at some point patience runs out and I will begin to question your question behind the question and that may get uncomfortable for you.

Originally published on Keisha Bell’s Facebook and republished here with the author’s permission.

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